Psyllium is a form of fiber made from the Plantago ovata plant, specifically from the husks of the plant’s seed. It sometimes goes by the name ispaghula.
It’s most commonly known as a laxative. Psyllium provides more benefits to your body than decreasing the amount of time you spend in the bathroom. Research shows that psyllium has many benefits to the human body, from your heart to your pancreas.
Your Bathroom Buddy
Psyllium is a bulk-forming laxative, which means it soaks up water in your gut and makes bowel movements much easier. While it helps promote regularity, it doesn’t promote flatulence, which is good for everyone within smelling distance. While it can be used as a one-off to ease constipation, adding psyllium to your diet can help promote regularity and overall digestive health.
While people with irritable bowel syndrome and Crohn’s disease are all too familiar with the banes of the bathroom, results are still mixed when it comes to psyllium and either of these conditions.
Some research has shown that consuming 10 grams of psyllium with probiotics daily is a safe and effective way to treat Crohn’s disease. However, other results show soluble fiber like psyllium can make symptoms worse for some patients.
Besides keeping your bowel movements regular and managing a chronic condition, psyllium’s ability to soften your stool can come in handy with short-term ailments, such as constipation. Conditions like constipation can also spur hemorrhoids and anal fissures.
Preliminary research shows that psyllium may help the painful symptoms associated with these conditions. Since the research jury is still out, talk to your doctor to see if psyllium can help with the pains in your, ahem, rear.
Research has shown that soluble fiber can help manage cholesterol levels. Proper cholesterol regulation is important for everyone, but vital for people over the age of 50. One study shows that psyllium is an effective way for people to lower their cholesterol, with very few side effects.
If you’re been told you need to watch your cholesterol, ask your doctor if adding psyllium to a low-fat, low-cholesterol diet is right for you.
High cholesterol is merely one way a bad diet can affect your heart. Numerous studies have shown that fiber like psyllium, as part of a healthy diet, can help lower a person’s risk of heart disease. Psyllium can affect your heart by lowering blood pressure, improving lipid levels, and strengthening heart muscle.
Besides psyllium, fiber from cereals and fruits can also contribute to heart health.
Watching Your Weight
Maintaining a healthy weight is a concern for many people, especially those with a chronic condition like diabetes. Besides being good for your heart and blood sugar levels, psyllium may help you lose weight.
Because psyllium absorbs liquid in your body, it can help give you a feeling of being full. This can help you control the amount of food you eat. Talk to your doctor if they have suggested you trim your waistline.
People with diabetes are constantly watching their diet to maintain a healthy balance of insulin and blood sugar (glucose). Some research has suggested that fibers like psyllium can help maintain a healthy glycemic balance.
One study found that taking 5 grams of psyllium a day can help patients with type 2 diabetes control their blood sugar. Another study of men with type 2 diabetes found similar results, but stressed that psyllium therapy should be tailored to the individual.
How Can I Get Psyllium?
Psyllium is most commonly consumed in powder or wafer form. It is also available in capsules, granules, and in liquid form. It is the main ingredient in many over-the-counter laxatives, including Metamucil, Fiberall, Cilium, Maalox Daily Fiber Therapy, and Uni-Laxative.
Follow the directions on packaging, and remember that a key component of psyllium’s work in your lower intestine is its ability to soak up liquid. The National Institutes of Health recommends taking psyllium in powder or granule form with 8 ounces of liquid.